Lifelong Learning Programme

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Success Stories

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Art helps to overcome communications difficulties and
increases self-confidence
High Secondary School
Students with learning difficulties
The girl I’m talking about had a learning disability caused by the isolation she lived in. She had never talked to anybody before the second class of the Secondary School, when she slowly started to speak with her class mates and teachers, even if she didn’t spend time away from her family after school. At first she was diagnosed as having mutacism, as she refused to speak with anybody. However, it was not selective mutacism because it was not caused by external events, it was a total refusal to the world as she hardly spoke with members of her family. It is hard to understand this closed behavior as she was the third child of a loving, warm family who were considerate of her real needs.
From the age of three to the age of eleven she followed speech therapy and attended different activities to enhance her social integration, after that she worked with a psycopedagogist who helped her to repeat and reinforce the work she did at school.
At the beginning of the third class of secondary school she finally got a teacher for special purposes who helped her to feel more self confident and was able to organize and reduce the amount of homework she got.
"Her mental development was normal and her performance was better if she didn’t use language as a tool to answer” this was what the doctor said us, but what we saw was a girl who was a phantom during lessons, she could not answer the teacher’s questions because she became red in the face and during written tests she could not write a sentence with meaning.
I thought it would have been hard to gain her trust, but after a couple of months of working together she started to relax and follow willingly all the suggestions I gave her. After one or two years she was so relaxed that she started to tell me funny things or to make jokes with me, in other words, bit by bit she revealed her sense of irony and her desire to live in a relaxed and happy way.
To reduce the stress, I sometimes prepared multiple choice tests or gave her a summary of the arguments. In some cases, however, this was not possible and this also helped her to not always lower the objectives of her learning. For example, for the Italian essay it was difficult for her as she had to write at first following prompts given from the teacher and then giving herself a list of arguments she wanted to talk about. During the first years we would only reinforce the language by reading, repeating and enhancing the vocabulary, then she wrote descriptive essays. Only at the end of the school was she able to write analytical essays.
She had big difficulties to memorize arguments and to follow too abstract subject such as philosophy and physics. We worked a lot with mind maps where she also wrote the thread of the speech as she constantly forgot it.
The very relaxing atmosphere of the school and the alternative way of expressing personal feelings and ideas worked silently on her for six years (she repeated the last year) and enabled her show more of her personality and capabilities. Painting the reality as well painting imaginary situations or even conscious or unconscious feelings and emotions has had the same function as describing all this with words. In this sense art has been for S., for many years, her only voice. While she did not participate in the learning dialogue in the first years of secondary school she has been, on the contrary, very autonomous during the art lessons (painting or sculpture)
The success of this story is particular relevant as a girl with a mutacism diagnose could speak and have good relationships with her classmates at the end of school, even if her social life ended with the ring of the school bell. Moreover while at the beginning of school she managed to write only short sentences and she could not write an argumentative essay, at the end of school she could write essays like all the others pupils. Even if some mistakes were still there, she could follow the line of an argumentative thought at the level of her classmates.
The creative process helps everybody to reduce their stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness and enable them to have a deeper perception of reality.
S. finished the school with the final grade of 65/100.
Today she works as secretary of a social cooperative carrying out all her tasks with success.

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.